Thursday, October 27, 2005

Learning Hebrew


I have dreamt and still dream of doing so many things. I am always planning about the steps that i got to take and assure repeatedly myself that i will not drag on and henceforth i will be a transformed( for worse?!) person.In the long list of dreams learning languages was one.While in college at chennai i made an attempt at learning sanskrit. I found out a student of sanskrit college at Mylapore and became his first student.But after few days i became regularly irregular and dropped out without even informing.For post graduation i came over to JNU,Delhi which is an excellent center for learning foreign languages.My best friend Anbu was a student of German and thus i got to hear a lot about foreign languages and the modus operandi of learning. Still i could not move my honorable self in to any attempt at learning a language.After few years of endless 'Chai' sessions and big talk, i decided to learn Hebrew and enrolled at the Israeli Embassy at Delhi. Anbu also joined and thus my tryst with Hebrew and the Israeli embassy began.

I decided on Hebrew as i had planed to do my thesis on Israel. I, like many disinformed persons had a romantic notion of Israel as a valiant little david upagainst diabolical Goliaths from the staple reading list of any small town boy like me comprising Oh Jerusalem, Exodus, Mitla Pass, Entebbe Operation etc. I remember Kamal Hassan reading a book on Entebbe in a scene from Balachandar's movie.The course was of one year duration. But going thru the security check thrice a week while attending the classes at the embassy was intolerable. My first hebrew teacher Ayala Gal was a Jew of French origin and wife of a diplomat. She had all the ignorance that is expected of an european who knows India well but she was a nice teacher.The encounter with racist attitude at the embassy made me look deeper in to the history of Israel and spurred my interest further.I despite my best efforts couldnot bear with the behaviour of the embassy and stopped after six months. The jews at the embassy were unable to differentiate between an Indian university student wanting to learn hebrew and an immigrant thai agricultural worker in Israel.
After this misadventure i gave up all hopes of learning hebrew.Fortunately after some months Israeli government decided to introduce Hebrew language in India by sending teachers from the Hebrew University and thus an one year part time course was introduced at JNU.I felt lucky and joined.For the first six months our teacher was Mr.Hiya Dahan,a senior teacher who was very affectionate and took effort to teach us.He was of the first generation in the new Jewish state and had the pioneering zeal which looked any questioning of the sacredness of Israel as blasphemy.He had taken the picture postcard image of India teeming with cows, snake charmers, elephants , maharajahs, disease and poverty a bit too serious and could never come to terms with the chaos that is India. For the next six months, we had a wonderful and sensitive teacher,Ms.Mira Smoli but from the initial strength of 15 we were only 2 after a few months. But she did not loose heart and enabled me to complete a language course at last!She was widely read and had a realistic idea of India as a nation that can only be felt and not understood.The hebrew language course was discontinued after one year because of bureaucratic wrangling and Israelis who had withstood multitude of arab armies fell before the onslaught of our red tapism and clerks and decided to cancel the hebrew language program.

13 Comments:

Blogger Adrian Creffield said...

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2:21 AM  
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2:21 AM  
Blogger Silent Melody said...

Hey Vb; saw your comment on my site. Thanks about that; interesting blog here. So did u manage to learn any new lang; I am hopeless about this thing.

And how does it feel staying at Faridabad?

And hey you can turn word verification option on in your settings to reduce spammers.

10:41 AM  
Blogger raja said...

i am stranded in Faridabad.hoping to get out by december. but still i forgive faridabad as my beloved delhi is near.Yes i learnt hebrew.thanks for word verification advice.it's on.

2:19 PM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

I am currently learning SAnskrit :-)

7:59 AM  
Blogger Nandan said...

Hi Prabhakar,

Interesting blog. Felt like I am reading my own thoughts when I read first few lines. I believe too much in well begun is half done and usually leave things at that. As for the languages, I hope to learn Bengali and Kannada for there is a wealth of literature in these two languages that I wish I could read in original.

Hazaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Bahut nikle mere araman
phir bhi kam nikle :-)

10:24 PM  
Blogger bindhu said...

I've always wanted to learn hebrew so that I can read good old jewish manuscripts. But didn't know that one has to put this much effort into it. Am currently learning french and you won't believe ... there is so much spoon feeding happening here.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Gavriel said...

I'm sorry to hear how your desire to learn Hebrew was greeted with such difficulties and obstacles. The beauracracy can be overwhelming in Israel. I hope it didn't stop you for good. I live in Israel myself and still don't speak Hebrew well, but I do get by and a level of fluency required to read manuscripts (with a dictionary) is quite achievable.

Best of luck with the Hebrew and the blog. I hope you write more. I'd like to hear more about the "chaos that is India". Like many Israelis I have an interest in your culture/nation/food that is not fully-informed so I'd love to learn more. Thanks too for the link.

4:30 AM  
Blogger bindhu said...

You have been tagged for story tree :)

9:35 AM  
Blogger Critical Sophist said...

Hi...

Yes you did learn Hebrew. Congrats. Anyway do noit know what you will do with it in the babu world....

I am looking forward to your blog whose string starts from the blog you have written...

Your view of Israel after your experiences in it's embassy...

8:03 AM  
Blogger pravin said...

i like to learn hebrew and greek so that i can read the mystries of the old jerusalem and concepts of bible in the past and future without translational errors.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Hunkston said...

My brother and his family are moving to Dubai so I have decided to learn Arabic, the problem is I have no idea where to start! Arabic is not as widely spoke as languages such as French and German so I am having trouble locating a tutor. So I have decided that I am going to do it myself online. Does anyone have any experience of learning language online? Is it easy when there’s no one to speak to? Also what are the prices like?

4:56 AM  
Blogger Debarshi said...

hi! have been planning to learn hebrew. am based in delhi. would you advise not joining the embassy classes, if they still offer them that is. my email is debarshi at rediffmail dot com. i'd appreciate a reply!

5:42 AM  

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